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Life After VSA: An Update. Oklahoma Association of Institutional Research and Planning Fall 2009 Conference October 23, 2009. Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA).

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Life After VSA:

An Update

Oklahoma Association of

Institutional Research and Planning

Fall 2009 Conference

October 23, 2009

voluntary system of accountability vsa
Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA)

Initiative for public universities to supply basic, comparable information on the undergraduate student experience to important constituencies through a common web report – the College Portrait.

Sponsored by APLU & AASCU. Funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

Provide a useful tool for students during the college search process

Assemble information that is transparent, comparable, and understandable

Demonstrate accountability and stewardship to public

Measure educational outcomes to identify and enhance effective educational practices

VSA Goals


Multiple Audiences

Prospective students and families

High school, community college counselors

Policymakers and elected officials

Campus faculty and staff

Accrediting associations, institution and state boards

Taxpayers and public-at-large

vsa participation
VSA Participation
  • 329 institutions from 49 states and Puerto Rico, including 7 from Oklahoma(10/05/09)
  • 63% of 520 APLU & AASCU institutions
  • 250+ College Portraits posted on
vsa context
VSA Context

Perceived lack of useful and transparent data preventing institutions from demonstrating accountability and contribution to public good (Spellings Commission)

Policymakers and employers demand evidence of educational outcomes – particularly broad transferable skills

a community effort
A Community Effort
  • Concept outlined in APLU white papers, refined through feedback from members
  • Strengthened by AASCU endorsement
  • Structure developed by task forces - presidents, provosts, student affairs, IR
    • 82 members from 70 institutions
    • Input from associations and larger HE community
result college portrait
Result: College Portrait

Free web report that communicates user-friendly, consistent information about college campuses.

  • Student & Family Information
  • Student Experiences & Perceptions
  • Student Learning Outcomes
www collegeportraits org

No rankings, no spin ... just the facts!

student family information
Student & Family Information

Institution description, highlights

Student characteristics

Cost of attendance, net cost calculator

Success & progress rate

Degree programs, class sizes

Post graduation plans


Introduction to Campus Community

Menu links take users to each section and data element

Campus Defined Buttons


Success & Progress Rate

  • Tracks student progress across 2-year and 4-year institutions using NSC data
  • New cohort query available to all Student Tracker users
  • Developed as alternative to IPEDS graduation rate
  • Focuses on student success in higher education system
student experiences perceptions
Student Experiences & Perceptions

group learning

interaction with faculty

institutional commitment

active learning

diversity experiences

student satisfaction

  • Selected senior responses from one of 4 surveys: NSSE, CSS, CSEQ, UCUES
  • Snapshot of student experiences on campus within 6 common areas

6 Common Constructs

Selected responses from Seniors


Student Learning Outcomes

Learning gains in critical thinking, analytic reasoning, written communication measured at institution level

Reported in a common format using CAAP, CLA or MAPP

student learning outcomes test validity study

Student Learning OutcomesTest Validity Study

Funded by the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE).

  • VSA measures value-added for student learning outcomes of critical thinking and written communications.
  • VSA offers a choice of three tests of student learning outcomes: CAAP, CLA and MAPP.
  • Testing companies agreed to adopt the same value-added methodology and reporting format, controlling for entering student quality.
  • Validity study needed to ensure that the three tests produced consistent scores.
  • Students take each of the three tests.
  • 13 tests administered to 1,100+ students at 13 universities
  • 13 tests components of CLA, CAAP, MAPP
    • 4 tests of critical thinking
    • 2 tests of reading
    • 2 tests of mathematics
    • 4 tests of writing
    • 1 test of science
participating universities
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

University of Texas, El Paso

University of Vermont

University of Wisconsin, Stout

Participating Universities
  • Alabama A&M
  • Arizona State
  • Boise State
  • California State-Northridge
  • Florida State
  • MIT
  • Trinity College
  • University of Colorado-Denver
  • Validity and reliability are high across tests and should not affect choice of measure
  • Factors affecting adoption:
    • Acceptance by students, faculty, administrators or other policy makers
    • Trade-offs in cost, easy of administration, etc
    • Utility of the test for other purposes such as supporting campus activities and services or providing guidance on improving learning
  • Thus VSA will continue to permit universities to choose to use either CLA, CAAP or MAPP.
final reports
Final Reports

Two reports are available on the VSA website:

  • The complete (and technically complex) Test Validity Study full report
  • An interpretative report for VSA participating schools can be found at

P e t e r D













How Should Colleges Assess & Improve College Learning?

Employers’ Views on the Accountability Challenge

Key findings from survey among 301 employersConducted November 8 – December 12, 2007for

employers find college transcripts of limited use in evaluating potential
Employers Find College Transcripts Of Limited Use In Evaluating Potential

How useful do you find the college transcript in helping you evaluate job applicants’ potential to succeed at your company?

Not sure

Very useful

Fairly useful

Not useful

Just somewhat useful


assessments effectiveness in ensuring college graduates have skills knowledge
Assessments’ Effectiveness In Ensuring College Graduates Have Skills/Knowledge

Very effective

Fairly effective

Supervised/evaluated internship/community-based project where students apply college learning in real-world setting


Advanced comprehensive senior project, such as thesis, demonstrating student’s depth of knowledge in major & problem-solving, writing, and analytic reasoning skills


Essay tests to evaluate level of problem-solving, writing, and analytical-thinking skills


Electronic portfolio of student’s college work, including accomplishments in key skill areas and faculty assessments


Multiple-choice tests of general content knowledge



assessments usefulness in helping employers evaluate college graduates potential
Assessments’ Usefulness In Helping Employers Evaluate College Graduates’ Potential

Very useful

Fairly useful

Faculty supervisor’s assessment of applicant’s student internship/ community-based project applying college learning in real-world setting


Sample of applicant’s student senior project and overview of faculty assessment of the project


Electronic portfolio of applicant’s college work, including accomplishments in key skill areas and faculty assessments


Applicant’s score on essay test to evaluate level of problem-solving, writing, and analytical-thinking skills


Applicant college’s score showing how the college compares to others in advancing students’ critical-thinking skills


Applicant’s score on multiple-choice test of general content knowledge



an obvious place to begin

An obvious place to begin:

Tell The Students What They Are Expected to Accomplish

the power of rubrics for assessing learning
The Power of Rubrics for Assessing Learning
  • Help guide students around learning expectations
  • Help guide faculty
  • Reinforces assessment for learning
  • Places individual faculty judgment within national shared experience
  • Can build up from course level to institutional reporting needs AND down from general to specific program/course context

[email protected]

open edpractices org

A website open to everyone in higher education

Free to join, easy to sign up

A library of sorts…a site where a collection of rubrics (and other best practices) can be:




Built with open source software to share knowledge and best practices openly

value process
VALUE Process

Develop criteria from rubric collection

Each rubric development team member wrote a row of performance descriptors for one criteria

Draft rubric then discussed and debated, edited and transformed

Testing and feedback – e-Portfolios

value project
VALUE Project


Voluntary Framework of Accountability

  • Initiative to report comparable information on community college
  • Use measures better suited to community colleges
  • Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation for Education
  • Sponsored by American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), College Board and Association of community College Trustees


  • Encourage participation in VSA
  • Participate in Achieving the Dream
  • Revise Assessment Policy
  • Use measures in Brain Gain funding

Dr. Debra L. Stuart

Vice Chancellor for Educational Partnerships

[email protected]